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From Maleck comes this topic:
“Your experiences specifically with priesthood, what it means and how it has worked for you.”
Before I dig into this I think defining terms is a pretty necessary thing. Every time I have talked at length, even in polytheist, animist, and Pagan spaces, folks tend to mistake priesthood for clergyhood. I have spent time in previous posts on priesthood exploring this in depth. However, I think our recent in-person conversation illustrate the differences well, and briefly to boot: Priests face the Gods while clergy face the people. The needs and requirements of being a priest are different even if a person ends up having to wear both hats or more in service to their community.
Since I understand priesthood as facing the Gods and serving Them, my experience of being a priest for both Óðinn and Anpu reflect this.
What it means to be a polytheist priest is that you are a servant of a God or many Gods. In my case, I am an independent Heathen priest of Óðinn and an independent Kemetic priest of Anpu. I specify my independence for two reasons: one, most of my experiences of being called to and engaging in priesthood for these Gods is modern and two, disconnected from any mainstream polytheist religions that hold priesthood or clergy status with these Gods. Due to my background, my experiences and practices will likely differ from those who are in more mainstream religious practices. I was brought into these Gods’ service through direct experience and guidance by Their hands, and much of my journey in service with and to Them reflects this. While I have had Elders and such over the years, they have come and gone and much of the Work I engage in for my Gods remains regardless of this coming or going of the people in my life.
For me, this service to Óðinn as a priest has been to make cultus to Him, to teach others how to serve Him, and to engage with the mysteries He shares with me and the spiritual Work He assigns to me. It is working with and understanding the Runes as vaettir, and working with Them in magic. Much of my work over time of being a priest of His has merged with my work as a spiritworker. The bright line between my work as a priest and a spiritworker is that my work as a priest is, primarily, to and for Him. My work as a spiritworker, by contrast, tends to be connective between folks and the Ginnreginn, whether that is making prayers here on my blog, or doing Rune or spiritual consultation.
While the line between being a priest and being a spiritworker is fairly bright at times, there is also a lot of overlap between the two. Many of my acts of service beginning in my priestly service to Óðinn have brought me into spiritwork. Nowadays is there much of a difference?
I think the big difference is that my service as a priest and the focus of that role belongs to Óðinn alone. My work as a spiritworker may involve Him, and involve cultus to/with Him, but it is not solely for Him. Much of my spiritwork is connective for/to others, and much of my work as a spiritworker is in service to building connection, relationship, and/or spiritual consultation and spiritual troubleshooting with a variety of Ginnreginn. Some of these Ginnreginn, that is, Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir, may not be part of my regular cultus at all. Many of the Ginnreginn I have made prayers for are not part of my hearth cultus or any of the specialized cultus I personally hold, yet that is part of my service as a spiritworker.
My priesthood with both Óðinn and Anpu may have spiritual skills that include spiritwork components, such as divination, hamfara (faring forth in my hamr or second skin), and/or the construction taufr or amulets, but these are not solely spiritworker skills. The skills certainly stack with each other quite well, even having similar if not the same utility to the user. In many ways being a priest it is far less demanding in its requirements than being a spiritworker. While the time I have devoted to studying the Runes has been involved, and likewise developing spiritual skills such as hamfara, there are less demands on my time by Him in my priest role than there is when I serve others as a a spiritworker. The focus of the skills and their provenance differ, though, from priest to spiritworker. Even if I worked with no physical human beings and only had a community of vaettir, spirits, to work with/for, I still understand the difference is my service as a priest and that of a spiritworker is my priest role’s focus belongs to Óðinn alone.
Much of my work as a priest to Anpu has dropped away over the years. When Óðinn hit my life Anpu intentionally backed away. Much of the intense Work I did with Anpu, including tending His shrine weekly, traveling in spirit to with Him and doing Work He assigned me, and ongoing work with the Dead either stopped or changed forms in my more primary Heathen path and relationship with Óðinn that had come to the fore. My aesthetics changed along with it. I traded in white muslin cloth ritual robes for linen, wool, and fur ritual clothes. I traded in mostly copper and bronze ritual tools for iron and steel ritual tools. Whereas I had few ritual weapons in my priesthood to Anpu, I have many with Óðinn, some of which are shared with my spiritwork. Another large difference is in how my priesthoods are expressed. Anpu’s priesthood was highly regimented and often I encountered it in a strict ritual space, including ritual cleanliness requirements. While I do encounter Óðinn in regimented ritual space, and do keep myself ritually clean, it is not as exacting as Anpu’s, and much of Óðinn’s priesthood is like an ongoing experience where He walks beside me. While both Gods have emphasized ritual protocol of varying kinds over the year, the way They have done so is very different to one another.
In my experience being an independent priest of Óðinn is fulfilling work in and of itself. What I do regularly in service to Him is relatively straightforward: namely I perform cultus, which includes making offerings and prayers to Him. I keep oaths and obligations to Him. I perform other spiritual work as He brings it to me to be done. Sometimes this overlaps with my spiritworker role, and sometimes it does not. The work of a priest is service to and for Him.